Sheriff's office doubts horse slaughter claims - FOX 13 News

Sheriff's office doubts horse slaughter claims

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The man who calls himself "Kudo" says Hillsborough County has an illegal horse meat problem as big as, or even bigger than in south Florida.

But Thursday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says they haven't seen evidence of that, and that Kudo is greatly exaggerating the problem.

Richard Couto, who goes by the nickname "Kudo" says thousands of horses are being slaughtered every year in Hillsborough County, and much of the meat is being sold for people to eat.

His graphic undercover video led Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist to look into what's really going on in part of his district.

After a meeting Thursday at his office that included representatives from the State Attorney's office and Code Enforcement, the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office acknowledged working with Kudo, but they disagree with his conclusions.

"We certainly don't see the epidemic of selling meat for human consumption that he has asserted," said spokesman Larry McKinnon  "We've been out on numerous occasions with him and never have been able to successfully buy horsemeat that he's made the assertion they're selling."

McKinnon says the one case they did turn over to the state attorney was a horse meat buy Kudo made with an undercover  USDA officer.

"The only time he's ever given us horse meat, had it verified that it was horsemeat, and then turned that case over to the state attorney's office. So now they're going to have to face the challenges of, how was that meat obtained, what was the conversation during the purchase of that meat?" McKinnon said.

McKinnon says the challenges arise from the law passed two years ago that bans the sale of horse meat for human consumption, but may not include slaughtering a horse for personal consumption, or to sell as food for other animals. 

Commissioner Crist was the state senator who introduced the bill in the state senate in 2010 . We asked if he is concerned about loopholes in the law.

"I don't know yet," Crist responded. "But we're going to look. We're going to find out, and if there are, we're going to look to see how to close them."

Crist said code enforcement will be taking a look at the farms, but what happens from there will depend on what law enforcement and prosecutors can prove-video or not.

"We have to substantiate in a lawful way any evidence, so that if there is anything going on that is illegal, we have the evidence in a lawful way that could be held up in court," Crist said.

Crist says there are questions about how Kudo got his video, and whether it'll stand up in court.

As for Kudo, he stands by his allegations and his work even though he says "they see me as an outsider, someone from the city of Miami-Dade coming in and entering their community." 

He also stands by his estimates that thousands of horses are slaughtered in Hillsborough every year for a thriving black market in horse meat.

"The way I came up with those numbers is from the horse killers and the illegal slaughterers themselves. I have personal relationships over a now 12-month span with these people. The Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department didn't take the time and energy to investigate them," Kudo said.

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